Barcelona is one of my favourite cities, a vibrant sub-culture that is never the same each time, and this is probably my fifth visit. Unfortunately its popularity, and the strength of the EUR against the £, has made it more and more expensive. Last time I stayed was in a very mediocre hotel for over EUR100 per night, so this time I thought we'd rent a flat for a few days from one of the many agencies on the web. We selected Friendly Rentals as the choice was huge and the prices quite reasonable, and it was generally very successful with some reservations.
Self-catering apartments in Spain all seem to have the same problem: absolutely minimal supplies when you arrive. The attitude appears to be, if you need it, buy it. This includes washing-up liquid, dish-cloths, loo rolls, salt, pepper, oil, etc. Obviously a supermarket will only sell in quantities far too great for a 4 or 7 day stay, not to mention the 100ml restrictions on liquids in hand-luggage, so most of the provisions are left behind in the flat at the end of the stay. These are obviously perks for the cleaners or agents themselves and removed during cleaning, and the cycle repeats itself for the next tenant. Perhaps the idea is that you will be persuaded to eat out more and assist the local restaurant trade.
Having said that, the Jazz apartment provided by Art Apartments through Friendly Rentals was small but clean and well equipped enough, although the location of Barceloneta is very artisan. Expect large old buildings, narrow streets, washing on the balconies across the street so close you can practically touch, and a lot of noise and hubbub from dogs barking, people talking, scooters flying about, and the odd crash from the rubbish bins (or vehicles hitting each other). As this can get a bit tedious at night, make sure you have double glazed windows and air-conditioning in the warmer months; this however won't stop the creaking from the ageing buildings themselves, footfalls and noise from the other tenants, and if you have a flat several floors up, you need to be fit to climb the stairs there are no lifts in this part of town.
As compared to an hotel, the price of EUR530 for 5 nights was quite reasonable given the facilities, Satellite TV, DVD/CD player, a/c, heater, cooker hob (but no oven), microwave, etc. and a refurbished style from the best that Ikea can offer. The young lad from Belarus that arrived on the first day to show us round was very personable and helpful with his rather limited English, but never materialised at the end of the stay to check out the flat. As several things were missing from the inventory at the start we thought we might need to explain, but our deposit was returned in full under the door (in cash) on the last night, so we assumed their organisational abilities had room for improvement perhaps.
Things to note: make sure you bring adaptors for UK electrical equipment, chargers, etc., these were not provided (our flat had very few power points, and we ended up using the toaster on the dining table to allow the kettle to boil!).
friendly rentals ne met pas les commentaires négatifs, l'appartement en photo paraissait 2 fois plus grand qu'en réalité et il n'était pas nickel au niveau propreté. Il manquait d'accessoires pour cuisiner et pour manger, le frigo était éteint à notre arrivée alors qu'il faisait au moins 30 degrés dans l'appartement, il n'y avait aucun rideaux alors que l'appartement était plein sud et en prime une aire de jeux pour enfant en face, cris et hurlements d'enfants jusqu'à 22h30, tout ça je l'ai dit à friendly qui n'a jamais publié mon commentaire et l'appartement est toujours dans les premiers à Berlin, méfiez vous.
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